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White Pass Train


Cruiseaholic07
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I would book the earliest option.

We booked bus up train down directly with Chilkoot and was very happy with our choice.

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Factor the morning trains apt to be climbing to the summit in fog and morning mist - maybe perhaps

limited scenic view ? ? ? - but then you are doing this in August weather is slightly more favorable

for better drier conditions. --- "BUT weather forecasts throw blindfolded darts at a moving target" !

Either way you will have to accept what is thrown your way - in general the summit clears later in

the day. The WPYRR goes up one side of a valley ridge to the summit while the bus traffic goes

up the opposite side - the two don't meet until Fraser.

 

 

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9 hours ago, Ashland said:

I would book the earliest option.

We booked bus up train down directly with Chilkoot and was very happy with our choice.

Probably not an option this year due to the Canada border being closed. The train can probably do it because no one gets off.

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I did the same as Ashland.  Bus up; train down with a morning departure.  We experienced fascinating weather changes from bottom to top:  foggy, cool at the start through 2 other weather changes ending with very warm and dry when we got to Carcross.  

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On 6/19/2021 at 6:10 AM, 1025cruise said:

Probably not an option this year due to the Canada border being closed. The train can probably do it because no one gets off.

I think the train is going up and down same route this summer.  When I booked it last year before being canceling, my information said "Passports required"

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Posted (edited)

I think it is overstated "Passports required" - the trip to the Summit - no one comes on board

Canadian or other official to check for Passports !

 

HOWEVER go to or pass Fraser by train or bus bike other means "PASSPORTS *ARE* REQUIRED" ! 

 

The only change in recent times is the Summit train does not have the locomotives move from

one end of the train to the other. A newly constructed loop (on Canadian side) and the train

returns to Skagway without disconnecting and reconnecting the locomotives.

 

The train does slow for photo opts of Summit Lake and the mock unmanned Border Crossing point.

 

Edited by don't-use-real-name
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15 hours ago, Elaine5715 said:

I think the train is going up and down same route this summer.  When I booked it last year before being canceling, my information said "Passports required"

Sorry, I was referring to the option of train up and bus down with Dyea Dave. I think the only available option this year will be roundtrip on the train, due to the fact that the passengers won't be getting off the train.

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4 hours ago, 1025cruise said:

Sorry, I was referring to the option of train up and bus down with Dyea Dave. I think the only available option this year will be roundtrip on the train, due to the fact that the passengers won't be getting off the train.

Sadly Dyea Dave passed away...perhaps when the borders open his company could still be around perhaps being run by his family members.

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12 minutes ago, Ashland said:

Sadly Dyea Dave passed away...perhaps when the borders open his company could still be around perhaps being run by his family members.

That is sad.

And scrolling back, the post I was replying to mentioned Chilkoot anyways. However, the same answer still applies, the only transit I expect to be allowed this year is the round trip train due to the borders being closed.

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22 hours ago, don't-use-real-name said:

I think it is overstated "Passports required" - the trip to the Summit - no one comes on board

Canadian or other official to check for Passports !

 

While to loop is just before Canadian immigration and customs, it is nonetheless in Canada, and the passengers on the train are subject to Canadian jurisdiction. But there are several places where Canadian and American immigration authorities do not actually inspect persons crossing the border, seemingly because it is relatively inconsequential. For example, a similar situation exists at the Peace Arch park in Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia, where persons may cross the border and return without inspection. Similarly, persons traveling from Waterton, Alberta, may travel by vessel to Goat Haunt, Montana, and without leaving the shoreline area need not be inspected. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the international border between Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Québec, and persons visiting the library and opera house may cross without inspection. But in all of these cases I think the arrangements are relatively informal, based on practicalities pressed by demands of commerce, rather than any formal law or regulation. So strictly speaking, passports probably ought be required, even though in fact they're not checked. But if there were some fugitive from Canadian justice that foolishly decided to take a White Pass Route excursion train to the summit, then while the train is going around the loop, the RCMP could pull that fugitive off the train without having to seek extradition from the United States! The border presents so many interesting situations (do a Google search for incidents at Pohénégamook, Québec, and at the Aroostook Valley Country Club).

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Posted (edited)

There are 2 loops - the one you reference is this one just before the CBI point at Fraser:

originally installed for the steam locomotive service to return to Skagway - - -

There is a siding at Fraser to reverse the diesel locomotives just like what was formerly

done at the Summit 

 

Google Maps

 

There are WYEs at Lake Bennett and Carcross to reverse a train set.

 

AND then the other newly constructed loop about a mile passed the siding at Summit Lake -

it is so new that Google Maps has not been updated.

 

Spot center in this map image:

 

Google Maps

 

Additionally more sidings have been put into place to operate more than a couple of

train sets - the shore excursions pre-covid had one early train going to Lake Bennett -

another to excursions at Fraser and then the Summit trains (more than one) -

On a real busy day 3 or 4 cruise ships in port just about everything of rolling stock is

deployed by the WPYRR.

 

YES taking the Passport is advisable even if not needed or checked - as I have pointed

out in other forum postings - in a medical emergency you may be taken to closest point

of relief for care and may not return to the ship and then have to find your way home be

that in a foreign country (Canada) "Passport REQUIRED" !

Edited by don't-use-real-name
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19 hours ago, don't-use-real-name said:

YES taking the Passport is advisable even if not needed or checked - 

 

When I took the Bus/train into Carcross, I remember that there was a quick Passport check.  

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Posted (edited)

back when I had more hair, the lovely ms b-d and I hiked the chilcoot to  bennett lake. took a rail maintenance jenny to the  mainline WP&YR (wait patiently and you'll ride). We rode back to Skagway in the mail car as 5 days on the trail  we were told we might offend the riders in the cruise cars.

 

there were park wardens at the top of the chilcoot checking passports and giving out hot cider. Not for immigration purposes but to determine if you were healthy, prepared, and weren't coming to Canada to die.

 

immediately went to the Red Onion, dropped our packs, and had the best frozen micro-waved bar pizza ever!! Under other circumstances it might not have been so good.

 

and being the perfect gentleman that I am, the lovely ms b-d got to take the first shower (but I think she milked it into a bath.

 

if you're into railroads, walk through the railyard where all the old decrepit passenger cars have been abandoned.

Edited by bottom-dragger
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On 6/21/2021 at 8:24 PM, don't-use-real-name said:

[T]he other newly constructed loop about a mile passed the siding at Summit Lake -

it is so new that Google Maps has not been updated.

 

Not only the Google satellite view but also the Bing satellite view shows nothing. OpenStreetMap is usually updated quickly, especially when a passenger railroad is involved, but it, too, shows nothing. The track map in Wikipedia shows nothing but a note that there is a loop some unspecified distance beyond White Pass. I suppose it will be documented before long.

 

While the loop is an added operations convenience for the White Pass excursion trains, the fundamental problem the railroad has is that it is single tracked. As I understand the operations, all the excursions must be sent in relatively quick succession as a convoy from Skagway to White Pass, with following schedules not being able to depart Skagway until the return of each convoy. The Long Island Rail Road has had the same problem on its line to Ronkonkoma, and during rush hours there cannot be any reverse-peak trains because of the single track. The LIRR will fix the problem when it completes the double tracking of its line, but double tracking would not be practicable for the White Pass Route. Passing sidings could also resolve the problem, but not only does that annoy passengers left to wait in a siding, it also requires precision with scheduling meets. If it could do that, then the railroad could schedule, say, hourly excursion service from Skagway, instead of the daily convoys at 4-hour intervals, 8:00 a.m., 12 noon, and 4:00 p.m. (or as otherwise scheduled on any particular day). Am I wrong . . . are there any scheduled meets enroute? It is hard to tell about current operations because the employee timetables no longer have actual schedules (everything is an "extra"), and the White Pass website was designed by marketing people, not operating people, and is nearly impossible to rely upon.

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Point well taken - my recent trip September 2019 taking a train ride to Fraser and the return

observed that loop past the Summit and the (almost?) completed work with putting in 2 long sidings

one adjacent to Lairsville Gold Rush Trail another short section about half mile past Lairsville and 
further up the line before reaching the stream crossing a huge siding at the Laughton Glacier

Trailhead.

Looking on the Google Map look for the sandy gravel section widening the track to double track

width - zoom in and see the double track siding;

 

Liarsville section:  Google Maps

 

Laughton Glacier section:  Google Maps

 

All this was done prior to circa September 2019 and the Google Map shows it 

Google has not updated the Summit Loop

 

I can imagine that at some time the WPYRR must have suffered an equipment breakdown resulting

in a need for a way to move these trains around that roadblock or simply you can only have so much

rolling stock on the existing track - somebody do something !

 

Not really sure of the train scheduling but it appears that (non-covid)

The steam train to Lake Bennett leaves first - it is going the greater distance than the others.

Where it makes up uncertain - (note does not operate all that often)

Then the long trains one from the Ore dock and another from the Railroad dock -

cruise guests walk off the ship and right onto the train

The Fraser trip I took required walking to the Depot and boarding a bus that took

us to a siding near 12th Avenue boarding a short train set less than 20 of us on this train

 

One of the cruise trains went by -

we followed -

 

On the trip up looking back on the curve - saw the other cruise train following

The first cruise train had reached the Summit and used the loop to return parking

briefly at the Summit siding area.

We passed them and went passed the to Fraser

 

From here - that second cruise train reached the Summit siding area allowing the first train

to start back - the second train looped and returned.

At Fraser our locomotives moved to the other end of the train (siding - we did not

use that small loop just around the corner) 20 or so guests got off for their excursion

we stayed on and returned to Skagway a few guests finishing their excursion got on.

 

FYI - the way this train ticket is set up is as two one ways -

Skagway-Fraser & Fraser-Skagway

the cost about the same as the Summit train seeing a bit more of Canada (Fraser)

past that Summit loop.

After you have done the Summit trips a few times you should look for options to

maximize the train experience - go further up the track passed the Summit.

 

On the return to Skagway the trains pull up crossing Broadway near the Depot -

Guests get off and can walk-about the town or return to the ship

Some shuttle service provided for those in need

The locomotives are switched out on a siding to the other end of the train -

The train is then pull back out of depot area and switched to the cruise ship siding 

for the next trip cycle.

 

Using a Map or graphic aid says a great deal more than words and of course riding

these rail trips leaves memorable impressions.

 

Next up waiting for the Canadian border to open and see what else is offered.  

 

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Great description of the operations. With the website designed for marketing purposes, and most of the reviews focused on individual train journeys rather than the larger scope of railroad operations, it can be a bit difficult trying to fully understand White Pass Route railroad operations. Coupled with that imprecision is the fact that there are multiple boarding locations within Skagway: the various docks, the Broadway station, the shops, and I had not before seen anything about boarding at 12th Avenue as you've noted. (There's also some uncertainty as to which trains will make intermediate stops, at Denver, etc., be it as station stops or as flag stops, and which operate through without stopping.) In sum, the White Pass Route seems to operate much like an ad hoc amusement-type ride, more so than a serious railroad with established and consistent stations and operating schedules upon which the traveling public can rely. Yet, it does provide real transportation, even if only to a minority of its passengers, so there is a need for the railroad to provide better and more detailed information to the public than it is doing. (That confusion is demonstrated by a decision of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, in early 2000, that concluded that the Pacific and Arctic Railway and Navigation Company (the legal name of the railroad within Alaska) had ceased to be a rail carrier employer because it no longer carried freight and was engaged in a tourist railroad excursion business which did not transport passengers in interstate commerce. But on reconsideration later the same year, the Board reversed itself, finding that the railroad does, in fact, transport many, if only a minority, of passengers and freight, and is not limited to just tourist excursions.) The railroad was recently purchased by Carnival Corp., and, presumably, it will be managed, at least at a high level, by the same people who operate the Princess Rail service on the Alaska Railroad . . . meaning people that mostly concern themselves with marketing more so than railroad operations. So I suspect that what the railroad advertises will continue being somewhat "sloppy," and geared toward the mass market cruise line passengers motivated by general nostalgia for a "nice train ride," and only reports like yours will give clarity to railfans and other persons interested in the details of the operations of a transportation provider.

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If you look at their website you will see that the White Pass and Yukon Railroad has gone through many changes since construction (Gold Rush) and it has become a popular scenic cruise excursion with a variety of options.    “Sloppy” hardly describes it.  The Holland America/Princess Cruises division of Carnival handles a very well run tourist business in Alaska and was able to add financial backing to the WPYR.  The Alaska Railroad on the other hand is essential to transportation in the interior for residents as well as tourists.  

2 hours ago, GTJ said:

 So I suspect that what the railroad advertises will continue being somewhat "sloppy," and geared toward the mass market cruise line passengers motivated by general nostalgia for a "nice train ride," and only reports like yours will give clarity to railfans and other persons interested in the details of the operations of a transportation provider.

 

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1 hour ago, oaktreerb said:

“Sloppy” hardly describes it.

 

Here, I used the term "sloppy" to mean that the various services begin at a variety of locales, as opposed to a more regimented structure where every departure begins and terminates at single location. If the service were to be shown in a traditional railroad timetable, it not appear neat and orderly, but as being all over the place. It was not meant to characterize the performance of each trip, or the safety of the carrier, but only as to the scheduling of its service, and the convenience to passengers who seek to board the "next" train departing from Skagway at any arbitrary time of day.

 

Several years ago I was managing operations for a local transit bus company. There was a pair of routes that generally connected two discrete service areas, but the particular paths taken by the buses, while proximate to each other, were on separate streets, so passengers could only choose to wait for only one, and not both, of the two routes. As well, over the years certain runs were cut from each route, and since the underlying schedule was not re-cast each time, an irregular headway developed on each route. It was a terrible service for passengers, and one that I would also describe as "sloppy." All the buses were well-maintained, the drivers well-trained, and the bus company made money, but the provision of scheduled service was "sloppy." To some extent, the operations of the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Seward could also be said to be a bit "sloppy," in that of the two passenger trains that travel the route, one begins at the railroad's passenger station in Seward while the other begins at near the cruise ship terminal; and on the other end one terminates at the railroad's passenger station in downtown Anchorage while the other terminates at the airport. With the Long Island Rail Road soon to have a new terminus on Manhattan's east side, under Grand Central Terminal (plus the ancient terminus at Long Island City), and with Metro-North being extend over the Hell Gate Bridge and into Pennsylvania Station, there will soon be additional "sloppiness" in the schedules of these railroads . . . and like the White Pass and Yukon Route not necessraily a negative but responsiveness to passenger demand (that said, the White Pass and Yukon boarding passengers at 12th Avenue cannot be a positive for anyone!).

 

(I think the first I encountered the use of the term "sloppy" in this manner was in my university class on abstract algebra back in 1981. While we started out precisely with arbitrary binary operators, those operators quickly degenerated into "addition" and "multiplication," with the professor explaining that mathematicians are simply being "sloppy" in doing so. From that point on I never treated the word "sloppy" as pejorative.)

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